Battle Ground man gets 3 years in vehicular homicide

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A Battle Ground man has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for causing a traffic collision that killed his girlfriend.

A Clark County jury on Aug. 1 found Ryan L. Matison, 22, guilty of vehicular homicide and reckless driving in the November 2012 death of Woodland High School senior Samantha Effingham, 17.

Granting a request from the prosecutor and Effingham’s family members, Superior Court Judge Suzan Clark gave Matison the maximum punishment allowed by the state’s standard sentencing guidelines, which is 34 months.

“My daughter had her whole life ahead of her, and he took that away,” said Effingham’s mother, Tracey Effingham. “We didn’t get to see her graduate from high school. We won’t be able to see her go to college and graduate as a nurse. … I won’t be able to see her get walked down the aisle for her wedding and have any children.”

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said he argued for the maximum sentence because “from my perspective, he never really took responsibility for what he did.”

Matison’s attorney, Chris Sundstrom, on Tuesday filed an appeal of the conviction and sentence.

During Matison’s sentencing hearing Friday, Sundstrom challenged the accuracy of the sentencing range determination, which is based on a defendant’s criminal history. He argued that Matison’s reckless driving conviction shouldn’t have been counted because under law, reckless driving is considered the same criminal conduct as vehicular homicide. Hence, Matison’s sentencing range should have been 21 to 27 months, Sundstrom said.

Clark rejected that argument.

“It was pretty obvious the judge was not very impressed with Mr. Matison because when it was his time to address the court, he said the standard stuff that he was sorry and wanted Samantha’s family to forgive him, but when the judge asked him what he was planning on doing with his life, he said he didn’t know; he didn’t have a plan,” Vu said afterward. “The look on her face was pretty obvious that she was not completely happy with his statements.”

Police said Matison was driving 59 to 64 mph in his 1994 Toyota Corolla in a 40 mph zone on Northeast 29th Avenue near Battle Ground on Nov. 23, 2012. He failed to stop at a stop sign at Northeast 219th Street and collided with an eastbound 2006 Chevrolet Silverado pickup. The impact killed Effingham, who was in the Corolla’s front passenger seat.

Matison claimed that he was driving only 40 to 45 mph and that his brakes weren’t working properly. However, a mechanic testified during the trial that the Toyota’s brakes were operational.

After a four-day trial, the jury was asked to decide whether Matison drove with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

Jurors took less than 90 minutes to reach a verdict in the case.